82nd Airborne paratroopers jump with Allied partners to train in interoperability
Col. Colin P. Tuley, commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, recovers his parachute as he watches soldiers with the 1st BCT descend to the ground in a multinational airborne training event as part of the Joint Multinational Readiness Center's Exercise Swift Response at U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels, Germany, June 15, 2016. Exercise Swift Response is one of the premier military crisis response training events for multinational airborne forces in the world. Their exercise is designed to enhance the readiness of the combat core of the U.S. Global Response Force - currently the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team - to conduct rapid response, joint forcible entry and follow-on operations alongside allied high-readiness forces in Europe. Swift Response 16 includes more than 5,000 Soldiers and Airmen from Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the United States and takes place in Poland and Germany, May 27-June 26, 2016. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Sgt. Michael Giles/Released) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

Fort Liberty, N.C – Capt. David Liu was no stranger to the adrenaline rush that surged through his veins as he leaped out of the airplane into the abyss below. As the eighth jumper from the right door, he had completed countless jumps before – each one a dance with gravity that tested his training, precision, and courage.

The cold wind roared in his ears on May 4, 2023, as he plummeted towards the ground, the vast expanse of the Sicily Drop Zone stretching out beneath him. It was during the crucial moments of gathering his equipment after a seemingly routine landing that he spotted a parachute reinflating nearby, setting off a chain of events that would underline the importance of vigilance, quick thinking, and the spirit of camaraderie that defines the U.S. Army.

As the parachute reinflated nearby, he initially assumed a fellow paratrooper had lost control of their parachute. He soon realized a body was being dragged beneath it.

While reflecting on the harrowing experience, Liu said, "I knew right away it wasn't right, and I had to act." He reiterated the importance of being vigilant during such operations and said the training provided by the Army allowed for him to provide an immediate and effective response.

Rushing to the scene, Liu identified the unconscious paratrooper as Pfc. Daylane Cruz, a religious affairs specialist with XVIII Airborne Corps. He tackled her to stop her from being dragged farther, removing the tension on her neck from the parachute's riser, and activated her canopy release assemblies.

Liu repeatedly and loudly called for a medic, while Cruz slowly regained consciousness and began responding to basic questions. She was later evacuated to Womack Army Medical Center.

“I suffered a concussion,” said Cruz as she recounted the event. “I recall falling, getting off the plane, and starting to lead, but after that – my memory fades. I don't recall the fall, just looking up and seeing things. Captain Liu was with me. I was apparently able to walk to the emergency vehicle and they took me to the hospital.”

With the help of consistent physical therapy, and Cruz’s awesome display of resiliency, she has made significant improvements in her recovery. Her neck, which was severely injured, has begun to feel better.

“Always look out for one another,” Cruz said. It's not just about your own readiness, but also about the readiness and safety of the Soldiers jumping with you. I am grateful for the help I received. If it weren't for him [Cpt. Liu], I don’t know what might have happened.”

Liu, a native of Maplewood, Minnesota, has been hailed for his quick thinking and swift action that saved a fellow Soldier's life. His situational awareness, expertise, and judgment during the harrowing incident has set an example for all Soldiers.